Opinion: Of Shakespearean Lessons and Art That Makes Us Think
The president doth tweet too much, methinks

When Barack Obama burst onto the national stage and consciousness with his eloquent speech of unity at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, listeners delighted at its deliberate thoughtfulness — the flip side of the George W. Bush “everyman” style. (And yes, that the polished orator was the child raised without a father and the other had a lineage of political privilege was part of the irony and appeal of the shiny, new package.)

President Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, was, as everyone knows, the opposite of all that — a man of immediate reaction and few, sometimes incoherent and contradictory words, often strung together in 140 characters or less. Those who favored this new style eventually read the former’s quality of reflection as indecision, and compared President Obama, often unfavorably, to “Hamlet.”

Opinion: Donald Trump — the Affirmative Action President and His Enablers
Different rules — or no rules — for different people

House Speaker Paul Ryan offered the excuse “He’s just new to this” for Donald Trump after former FBI chief James Comey’s testimony that the president has done and said things that were inappropriate, even if they don’t turn out to be illegal. It sounded like something you would say in defense of a toddler who dives face-first into the birthday cake because he hasn’t yet learned what a fork is for.

President Trump is that guy — and it’s a guy 99 percent of the time — who doesn’t bother to read the book but tries to bluff his way through the oral report. Sometimes that guy is funny. When he is in a position to weaken long-held European alliances, jeopardize troops on a base in the Middle East or shred America’s safety net as well as ethical guidelines set by the founders in the U.S. Constitution, no one should be laughing. A “gentleman’s C” won’t cut it when so much is at stake.

Opinion: What Exactly Do Republicans Believe in Besides Trump?
Power may be valued more than patriotism

When my parents were good Republicans — my mother a party activist, in fact — the label meant something entirely different than it does today.

It was the party of Lincoln, imagine that, and the GOP tolerated differences with a tent that was indeed big. You could be pro-civil rights and fiscally conservative, a working-class African-American family in Maryland, then, as now, a mostly blue state, and there was someone such as Republican Sen. Charles Mathias. With his streak of independence and loyalty to principle, he could represent you, your party and even those who didn’t vote for him.

Opinion: African-American Women Call Out the Democratic National Committee
But are Democrats listening?

We crave the hard-to-get while ignoring the one who has stuck with us through thick and thin. In a letter to the DNC chair, a group of black women — activists, community leaders and elected officials — has accused the Democratic Party of falling into that too-often-true cliche. Who can blame them? 

Shades of “Moby-Dick” in the narrative that took hold after the party’s 2016 losses, with white working-class males replacing the elusive white whale of Melville’s imagination. Will the results for the Democrats be just as tragic as Captain Ahab’s if the party doubles down on that strategy for election cycles to come?

Opinion: Democrats May Be Too Optimistic About 2018 Gains
Ghosts of racial discord still haunt the South

The Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina turned out to be too racially driven for a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives — with Justice Clarence Thomas siding with the majority.

Who’d have thought it?

Opinion: Trump Policies on Voting and Criminal Justice Quietly Move Country Backward
Plans proceed despite chaos in the White House

While the Trump administration is in a state of perpetual turmoil, some of its promised policies are proceeding as planned. Support from a Republican Congress is softening with each cringe-worthy headline about slips, leaks and feuds; still, its members, mindful of the president’s loyal base, are proceeding with caution.

And when you step back from the chaos, don’t expect to see any progress on other issues — such as voting rights and criminal justice reform — that once promised a bit of bipartisan cooperation. 

Opinion: Trump’s Reruns — ‘Slippery Ethics, Harsh Pronouncements and Shiny Gilt’
Comey firing just the latest episode

Is everyone exhausted yet?

The one thing America could count on was that Trump, as promised, would put on a surprising show. But not even four months into the Trump presidency, the one surprise is how depressingly familiar the playbook has become. The hopes and dreams that candidate Trump promised to fulfill? Hold off on those.

Opinion: It’s Huge — Few Presidents Have Praised Authoritarians as Much as Trump
But administration has little to say about police shootings

So what does a criminal look like, exactly? On the campaign trail, Donald Trump featured the moving stories of the grieving relatives of those who had been killed by criminals who were in the U.S. illegally. In a promise kept, the Department of Homeland Security has introduced the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, or VOICE, housed within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. DHS Secretary John Kelly said: “They are casualties of crimes that should never have taken place — because the people who victimized them often times should never have been in the country.”

While Kelly assured this effort will aid victims of crime who also are undocumented, it comes as ICE has shifted its priorities when picking up the undocumented for deportation, sometimes going to courthouses and hospitals while immigrant activists protest that this prevents those in need from seeking help.

Opinion: The Obama Effect — Pros and Cons for Republicans and Democrats
Former president could unite a party in distress

Barack Obama, the charismatic former president, can cause a scene just by walking into a coffee shop, as the rapturous crowds in usually blase New York City demonstrated at one of his cameos. So as he gently re-entered the public and policy eye this week, it’s no surprise that he could throw both Democrats and Republicans off balance — though of course for very different reasons.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave President Donald Trump possibly his most important first-100-day achievement by spearheading the maneuver to transform Obama’s Supreme Court pick to replace Antonin Scalia into the conservative Neil Gorsuch, whose first significant vote allowed an Arkansas execution to proceed. McConnell’s obstruction and subsequent “nuclear option” may have played a part in breaking the democratic process, but isn’t that a small price to pay for a win —  at least I’m sure the president feels that way.

Opinion: Weighing the Costs of War and Diplomacy
Military action is not always the courageous choice

John F. Kelly is getting a lot of criticism these days, and that’s understandable. As leader of the Department of Homeland Security, the retired Marine general now has to be more sensitive to the politics of any given situation.

So when he publicly said critics of his agency’s policies — whether they come from Congress, civil rights groups or the public — should “shut up,” he came off as what he once was, a military man giving orders. When the administration, Kelly’s department in particular, is challenged on its travel bans and inconsistent immigration enforcement, Kelly could do more listening and learning.

Opinion: In North Carolina, the Good and Not-So-Good News
Compromise on ‘bathroom bill’ but an attempt to ban same-sex marriage

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s North Carolina, so, of course, the good news is followed by that pesky dark cloud every time.

You would think everyone in the state would welcome the end of the long saga over House Bill 2, the so-called bathroom bill, which was repealed recently in a compromise. That bill, which had compelled people to use the bathroom that corresponded to the gender on their birth certificates, also said cities could not follow Charlotte’s lead and enact their own anti-discrimination ordinances or a minimum wage and much more.

Opinion: Jeff Sessions-Style Policing Makes Everyone Less Safe
Law enforcement shouldn’t target the powerless

 

The Trump administration is most comfortable with power and the powerful.

Opinion: Not So Fast, Democrats. You Had a Good Day, but Now What?
Party needs to focus on a clear message

As the Republican Party has learned, it’s much easier to be the party of “no” than to actually have a plan to lead. So while Democrats are celebrating a GOP in disarray, the party out of power needs a message and a plan.

Understandably, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosicelebrated as the GOP’s new-and-improved health care plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act failed. But long term, she must truly want to experience a return to the speaker’s post. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer knows just how to rile Donald Trump, his fellow New Yorker. But he still has to call Trump Mr. President.

Opinion: Art as Soul Food – A Tough Yet Essential Case to Make
President Trump’s proposed budget cuts are ill-advised

Most critics expressing outrage at President Donald Trump’s proposed budget have focused on cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program that funnels money to Meals on Wheels. And who can blame them? 

If you’re looking for allies for your cause, that’s the narrative you want — one that sets up clear-cut heroes and villains, especially with budget director Mick Mulvaney, sent from central casting and all but twirling a mustache as he says, “We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good,” or “There’s no demonstrable evidence” that after-school programs that also feed children are actually “helping kids do better at school.”

Opinion: The GOP and White Evangelicals — A Forever Match?
Less than compassionate policies might be fraying ties

Will a health care proposal that could toss “the least of these” off its rolls cause divisions between evangelicals uncomfortable with a close relationship with the Republican Party and those who feel just fine with the political association?

A shared anti-abortion stance, with the promise to appoint like-minded judges, has so far helped to keep the link between evangelicals and the GOP strong. But strains — along policy, generational, and racial lines — are showing within conservative faith groups, despite agreement on core beliefs. 

Opinion: We Need Robert Osborne to Tell Us This Is Only a Movie
Looking at the politics of today through a cinematic lens

Robert Osborne, why did you leave us when we need you most? The death this week of the Turner Classic Movies host only highlights, as political developments spiral from the unexpected to the unbelievable, that film may be the best outlet for explanation and escape.

Of course, the movies, products of the times in which they are created, and made with the primary goal of entertainment and profit, are far from free of problematic politics. As a culture consumer, I have had to overlook how much unsavory American history Hollywood dream makers have eradicated when crafting sanitized narratives for the silver screen. For example, no number of Academy Awards could ever rescue the pixilated depiction of the Civil War delivered in “Gone with the Wind” — best to avoid that one.

What ‘Us Versus Them’ Looks Like Beyond America’s Borders
Myopic views hurt us much more than they help

The problem is not “fake news.” It’s not enough news.

That point was made crystal clear during a trip this past week to South Africa, where a brief glance at the international programming on cable channels served as a corrective eye-opener. It was full of news and features barely glimpsed on many U.S. channels, and, in truth, they probably would not be ratings grabbers.

Is There a Reward at the End of the Democrats’ Long Slog?
Hard work is vital but results are not always easy to see

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The HKonJ protest this past weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina, may have been the largest such event, but it wasn’t the first time that thousands, with causes as diverse as the citizen-marchers themselves, showed up. For 11 years, with messages for both Republicans and Democrats, the faithful gathering at Historic Thousands on Jones Street have persisted. 

There is a lesson for the dissatisfied, new to activism, who are now crowding town halls and filling the streets: Victories may never come, or may be incremental, at best. Each goal accomplished could be followed by a setback.

GOP Seeks a Safe Space From the Words of Coretta Scott King
Echoes of Trump in Senate Republicans’ silencing of Elizabeth Warren

For a party and an administration that ran on being tough guys, afraid of nothing and no one, and disdainful of “PC culture,” whatever that’s supposed to mean, Republicans are, like President Donald Trump, proving to be poster boys (and, yes, the crew is testosterone-heavy) for the perpetually offended, perfect pictures of bullies who crumble when one of their targets dares talk back.

Twitter outrage over the latest “Saturday Night Live” parodies — of Trump and, this past week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer — are becoming weekly routines, expected and easy to dismiss. It’s just jokes, folks, no need to get so worked up. And piling partisan political significance onto the Super Bowl — the teams, commercials and half-time entertainment — is more than one football game can bear.

Black History Month Lessons for ‘Trump World’
Fight for equality continues to be a few steps forward followed by pushback

Every year, when February rolls around, you hear the same questions: Why do we need a Black History Month? When is White History Month? (The answer to that second question is January through December, by the way.)

For the answer to the first, look no further than the movie that just picked up the top award from the Screen Actors Guild. “Hidden Figures” is about the African-American female mathematicians who helped propel the U.S. space program, and who were mostly left out of the history books and previous film accounts of NASA and the talents who made it soar. (John Glenn wouldn’t leave home without their trajectory equations.)